TORONTO — The WOW (Widows or Widowers) group is celebrating its 18th anniversary this year.
At W.O.W.’s anniversary dinner is, from left, Phyllis Fraser, Norm English, Helen Linetsky and Bev Bobkin-English.
The brainchild of Beverley Bobkin-English and her two widowed friends, WOW started on a snowy day in 1993. Eleven strangers gathered for brunch at the Chimo Hotel (now the Holiday Inn) in Markham, Ont., after seeing a newspaper ad for the group.
After the loss of her husband of 27 years, Bobkin-English had immersed herself in reading and searching for consolation in grieving books. “In one of them, it mentioned a group formed specifically for widows and widowers for support and friendship,” she said. “This idea remained with me for nine years, but I did not proceed with it.”
Bobkin-English returned to teaching and eventually acted on her thoughts. “I phoned the Toronto Star and placed an ad in the personals announcing that a group for Jewish widows and widowers was being formed.”
WOW was never meant to be a grieving group, she said. “It’s a group for moving on. We are joined together by a common bond. ”
Today, 70-plus members continue to meet regularly to enjoy a wide range of planned events. “Hundreds of widows and widowers have passed through our doors. Some have stayed a short time, while others have remained for many years, building relationships, taking on major chairmanships and committing themselves to the success of WOW.”
Bobkin-English said a sense of unity has developed through shared interests in music, art, theatre and travel. “Notable speakers, museum outings, cruising, Chanukah parties, anniversary celebrations, bowling, picnics, potlucks and gallery visits are just a few of the events planned for a Saturday or Sunday, when it could possibly be a quiet or lonely time.”
WOW gives members the opportunity to enjoy fun activities with others who have experienced a similar loss, she said. “Lifelong friendships have developed in WOW, among those who in most situations did not know one another prior to meeting at a WOW function. Marriages have taken place and long-term relationships have evolved.”
Bobkin-English said the satisfaction of seeing her “‘child’ mature, reach out and grow to be productive in the Jewish community” is one of her most cherished accomplishments.
“I am ecstatic and so very proud! The small seed planted 18 years ago has blossomed to become a beautiful flower, giving joy and comfort to all who have been part of WOW. My heart is filled with pride. May we continue our network of friendship and congratulate WOW for its enthusiasm, support and commitment.”
With a focus to serve the community, Bobkin-English said the group always welcomes new members ages 60-plus. “We would especially like to increase the number of widowers in our group for a more varied membership. This is not a singles group, so attending an event is pressure free.”
For information about WOW, call Anne Bradley at 416-226-0530 or Phyllis Fraser at 905-771-8435.